Gun Violence: Prevention and Healing

How does gun violence change us? In the latest episode of the Social Behavioral Coffee Hour, CSBS Research Scientist Peter Ondish, Ph.D., talks with Ruby Mendenhall, professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois. Ruby and Pete discuss how gun violence in our environment changes us in unexpected ways—both psychologically and biologically. They also talk about current interventions and initiatives to reduce gun violence and, importantly, how families that have lost loved ones find ways to heal from impossible wounds. Talking about gun violence is hard, but through conversations like this, we try to find hope.

Below is a brief exchange from their conversation. Listen to the full podcast to learn more

Pete: You mentioned storytelling, but I’m wondering if you could tell us like because I think when people hear this, they kind of will intuitively say, Oh, yes, I understand community is important. But I think you’re also hinting at something that’s much more than just being physically around people. There’s something about the ways in which people are connecting, sharing information, maybe unpacking certain things that they hadn’t unpacked previously.

I don’t know what it is, to be honest, but what makes for a community that does in fact allow people to overcome their grief versus one that doesn’t, you think?

Ruby: Well, I’ll just say some of the things based on my experience. So it’s not the totality of it, but the storytelling. Those sharing your experiences and then also getting support, emotional support. Right. That people when you talk, they feel your pain, right? They support you, right? They give you hope, which I’m learning is a really kind of big thing to have even myself.

It’s good to have spaces where you can tell people some of the things that are happening and without judgment.

Pete: Without Judgement.

Ruby: Yeah, without judgment. In fact, one of the mothers, when we were doing the interview, she waited till I was finishing up with some interviews and she said, you know, I just wanted to say thank you for coming and, you know, for asking what we needed.

And at the time, I don’t think I understood what she was saying. And I’ve done lots of interviews before. And people do say it feels good to be able to kind of share your experiences and have someone who’s an empathetic listener.